Good news for those who prefer heading across Lake Michigan rather than around it. The currently coal-powered Badger car ferry between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., has two years to end dumping of coal ash as it travels across the lake. Here's the gist of a news release the company just sent.
Lake Michigan Carferry has signed a consent decree agreement with the Department of Justice and EPA that will require the SS Badger to end the ash discharge within two years. The agreement is the product of a lengthy process of working with the EPA to find the best solution, and includes the installation of a sophisticated ash retention system.
According to a report in the Ludington Daily News, the company will store the burned ash and recycle it ashore. An earlier plan to convert the ferry--reportedly the last coal-fired vessel in the U.S.--to run on natural gas, is shelved for now.
The Consent Decree will be lodged in federal court in Grand Rapids by the Department of Justice. The process includes a 30-day written public comment period prior to final approval by the court.
According to Bob Manglitz, President and CEO of Lake Michigan Carferry, "The resolution of this issue has taken far longer than we had hoped, but the end result has been worth the effort. This agreement will save the jobs of our 200-plus employees as well as many other jobs in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin. We appreciate the support we have received from our elected representatives in Michigan and Wisconsin and the encouragement of the thousands of people who have supported our efforts to keep the badger sailing."
The basis of the agreement is expressed in the following language found in the Consent Decree: "WHEREAS The United States and LMC (jointly, the "Parties") have agreed that settlement of this action is in the best interests of the Parties and in the public interest, and that entry of this Consent Decree without further litigation is the most appropriate means of resolving this matter;"
The Badger contributes $35 million each year to the economies of the port cities of Ludington, MI and Manitowoc, WI. Local officials and residents have played a key role in helping everyone involved in the process understand the importance of the Badger to the Port Cities.
"The Badger has a huge economic impact on the Ludington Area, but the historic ship is also a big part of the heart and soul of our community," stated Ludington's Mayor John Henderson. "We are very pleased that the EPA and Lake Michigan Carferry were able to work out an agreement that will allow the Badger to continue to be an icon for our community long into the future."
According to Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels, "Manitowoc's long maritime history has been an important part of our identity for many years, and the Badger is a very visible reminder that the tradition continues.
The car ferry is a big part of our tourism industry and is a valuable transportation alternative for our local manufactures. We congratulate Lake Michigan Carferry and the EPA for working together to ensure the continuation of this important transportation asset for Wisconsin and Michigan."
2013 is the Badger's 60th Anniversary. In celebration, the company is offering special pre-season anniversary pricing. The start of the sailing season has moved up to May 6 in response to a request to transport over-dimensional loads of wind tower sections manufactured by Broadwind Energy, located in Manitowoc WI and destined for wind generation projects in Michigan.
A special discount fare offered through April 1 is $60 per adult and $60 per auto. That's a huge savings.